KELSO —Montesano’s boys brought an end to a 36-year drought in emphatic fashion.
Dominant on both ends of the floor, the Bulldogs earned a regional berth by crushing Seton Catholic, 68-34, on Feb. 17 at Kelso to place third in the District IV Class 1A Boys Basketball Tournament.
Surviving Saturday’s loser-out contest, the Bulldogs (19-5) advance to regional competition against district rival La Center in a winner-to-state, loser-out game scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Longview’s Mark Morris High School.
While post-district appearances are an expectation in Montesano football, for example, they have been a rarity in Bulldog boys basketball. This will be the first time Monte has survived district since its 1982 state-qualifying team.
And although they will need a win next weekend to advance to the state 1A tournament proper in Yakima, Monte coach Doug Galloway — smiling but serious — said “I consider the top 16 (in each classification) as state.”
While Galloway said he was highly aware of the boys basketball dry spell, it was less of a concern to the players, according to senior guard Trevor Ridgway.
“We just like winning,” Ridgway said. “We like playing with each other. We play really well together.”
Montesano sophomore guard Sam Winter turned in an exceptional all-around performance Saturday with 19 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Ridgway and senior classmate L.J. Valley added 12 points apiece, with the latter also dishing out six assists.
Montesano’s 40 percent field-goal shooting was respectable but not sensational. The Bulldogs, however, performed so well in other areas of the game that better marksmanship was unnecessary.
They compensated for a few close-in misses by knocking down nine 3-point shots. They distributed the ball very well — repeatedly hitting the open man both in half-court sets and press-breaks— and used their size advantage to control the offensive glass.
It was defense, however, that was the biggest difference between this game and a previous 74-71 non-league loss to Seton Catholic last month.
Playing almost exclusively man-to-man, the Bulldogs prevented the Cougars from going inside and limited them to 24 percent field-goal shooting.
Ridgway drew the primary defensive duty on Seton Catholic ace Isaiah Parker and help hold him to six points. Parker, who in truth was well off form even on rare occasions he had open looks, had been averaging more than 17 points per game.
“That was the whole key,” Galloway said of his club’s defense. “When you score 71 points and lose (as in the previous meeting), you’re not playing much defense. We had a little better game plan and I think our kids had a little more energy.”
“We were way more energetic,” Ridgway agreed.
There was little suspense after the opening quarter.
Winter, Ridgway and Valley each hit 3-pointers in the opening four minutes to stake the Bulldogs to a 12-7 lead.
Valley’s NBA-distance three-ball at the buzzer concluded a a subsequent 12-2 spurt that gave Monte a 21-9 advantage after one period.
Although the Cougars from Vancouver had some good moments in the second quarter, they never reduced the deficit to single digits.
Seth Dierkop had two early buckets and reserve Shaydon Farmer added six points in the third quarter as Montesano increased its lead to 53-25. The Bulldogs emptied the bench midway through the fourth quarter.
Seton Catholic, which hadn’t even won a district contest until this tournament, was seeking its first regional berth. Henry Demsky topped the Cougars with 11 points.
Montesano 21 12 20 15 — 68
Seton Catholic 9 11 5 9 — 34
Montesano (68) — Ridgway 12, Nicklas 2, Winter 19, Valley 12, Dierkop 6, Farmer 8, Albert 7, Bates, Johansson, Iverson, Wyatt 2, Parker. FG – 25-63 (.397). FT — 9-15.
Seton Catholic (34) — Demsky 11, Parker 6, Kent 5, Miller 4, Williams 4, Pitzer, Strong, Dumas, Jackson, Olson 4, Cowger. FG — 12-51 (.235). FT — 8-12.